City Leaders, Neighbors React to Murder-Suicide in East Hillside
It started during the late morning on Wednesday when Hermantown police went to do a welfare check on 29 year old Brandon Taylor Cole-Skogstad at his home in the city, but they couldn't find him.
DULUTH, Minn. — There’s a very somber feeling on East 12th Street the day following the incident that has now been confirmed a murder suicide. Duluth police Chief Mike Tusken spoke out on Thursday with details regarding the tragic discovery, along with how painful it is for the whole community.
“We all certainly are mourning with, and expressing our condolences to the Barry family and it’s just a sad day,” he said.
It started during the late morning on Wednesday when Hermantown police went to do a welfare check on 29 year old Brandon Taylor Cole-Skogstad at his home in the city, but they couldn’t find him.
One of Cole-Skogstad family members shared the concerning message they received from him with police, which he had also posted on Facebook, that said he was going to take his life along with the lives of his relatives.
Around 12:30 in the afternoon, Duluth police knocked on the door of the home on the 700 block on East 12th street, and heard a single gunshot.
They retreated and called for backup from the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office and Superior Police.
After using robots and drones to search the property, the Duluth Tactical Response Team was able to get inside the home around 3 p.m., where they discovered the bodies.
A 9 millimeter hand gun was found near Cole-Skogstad, who had not only killed himself, but his aunt, Riana Barry, age 44, his uncle, Sean Barry, age 47, and the couple’s two young daughters Shiway age 12, and Sadie age 9, along with the family’s dog.
“You know, one of the things that going through the house that our officers indicated that part of it that was really hard was that the walls all had photos of the family so it seems like a really tight family unit and makes this even more heart breaking and tragic,” Chief Tusken added.
While the scenes within the house have been scarring to those having to witness it, outside, the neighbors did not report hearing any gun shots, but just a few homes down, it was the lack of shots that was concerning.
“The only thing that I heard was the banging on the door to bust the door down, and that was the most gut-wrenching feeling is not hearing any gun shots or not seeing anyone arrested cause I kind of knew something bad had happened, especially when people with cameras were going in taking pictures of the scene,” Brianna Williams, a neighbor said.
The neighbors were visibly disturbed by the events that occurred at the home, including former neighbor to the Barry’s, Duluth City Council President, Arik Forsman, reminiscing about the family, and how the daughters sold girl scout cookies.
“I knew Riana and her daughter Shiway and I knew that she sold cookies and it’s horrible,” Forsman said, emotionally.
The family members, who were from Duluth, were killed while sleeping in their beds, but it is unknown at this point what time that happened.
“It’s uh, uh, I gotta tell you, it’s tough on all of us, it’s tough on our cops, some, our police officers, a lot of them, they have families, and any time you go into a situation like this and you see that tragedy, it is terribly heart wrenching, and you can’t un-see it,” Chief Tusken saide.
In 30 years with the department, Chief Tusken says that he had never seen a homicide involving as many people as this one.
Cole-Skogstad wrote on Facebook about the years he suffered from mental health struggles, saying that he believed he didn’t deserve help.
“It really hits home for me because I’m going to school for mental health therapy and I’ll be working with individuals with mental illness in my future and it just breaks my heart that this guy couldn’t get the help he wanted and he was so mentally I’ll that it got to these measures. I feel there’s so many precautions you can take especially when you talk to other family members, you can get the help you need. And in this case, it just went horrific, horrifically too far,” Williams said.
A memorial has begun to build up at the foot of the Barry’s home on East 12th Street, showing the communities support, and mourning of this tragic loss.
“But we are a strong city and we take care of each other and I know that we’ll pull together her as a community and get help for the folks who need it right now,” Arik Forsman said.
Duluth Police are offering support services for those who responded to the scene. The murder suicide is an ongoing investigation.